Eagles eye return to playoff
October 12, 2015
The Eagles flew into the 2015 season with momentum from last season’s playoff appearance, the first since 2010.’
This postseason appearance injected a new enthusiasm into the program, now in its third year under Head Coach Travis Zajac. This season, the Eagles hope to capitalize on that momentum and keep the program headed in the right direction.
“The playoff appearance had a huge impact on the program,” Zajac said. “It built excitement, not only with returning players, but also outside the program with students and teachers. Although we got handled by sixth-ranked West Delaware in the first round, the fact that we were able to play with them for the first quarter and a half was extremely encouraging.”
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this year’s team is its size. With only 25 players on the varsity roster, it was vital that the Eagles weren’t plagued with injuries. However, Judd White and Noah Sigwarth, the first and second string quarterbacks, and wide receivers and defensive backs, Austin Kluck and Denver Link, were sidelined with injuries.
What the Eagles lack in quantity, they are trying to make up for in quality. “The quality on this team is outstanding,” Zajac said. “Not a day goes by where I don’t love going to practice with this group of guys. They’re just a really committed and hard-working group.”
One of the keys to the Eagles’ success is the run game. With the departure of Riley Hasken, who ran for over 1,600 yards on 302 attempts last season, seniors Mason Flynn and Lyle Klein have helped filled that void. Flynn has ran for 391 yards on 75 carries while Klein has ran for 266 yards on 71 carries. The success in the running game has been a team effort with a strong offensive line consisting of two seniors in John Patrick and Tanner Horchak, two juniors in Drew Lenz and Dalton Chapman, and sophomore Blake Bradley. “It’s really important for us to set the tone up front,” Lenz said. “We have to be physical and establish ourselves at the point of attack.”
With many games being won or lost in the trenches, trust is a huge factor for success. “All of the guys are great,” Lenz said. “We buy into the game plan and know that everyone will do their job.”
Along with the returning veterans, juniors fill out the remaining spots. With the loss of White, Noah Sigwarth, ‘17, stepped up as the Eagles’ starting quarterback, and he credits his teammates and coaching staff for the transition. “I think stepping into the role was made a lot easier thanks to the lineman and running backs playing well to take pressure off of me to make plays,” Sigwarth said.
“The offensive coaches also helped by calling simple passes to get me easy completions when we needed them. It’s never ideal to lose a player like Judd, but we had to adjust, and I couldn’t do it without the people around me,” Sigwarth said.
Unfortunately, the team had to adjust once again as Sigwarth was injured in the Eagles’ 17-14 loss to Maquoketa. In that game, Isaac Evans, ‘16, stepped into the quarterback spot and completed 5 of 8 passes including a 68 yard touchdown pass with under one minute to play before Maquoketa ran back a kickoff for the winning touchdown.
The Eagles still hope to qualify for the playoffs, but a long-term goal that Zajac has is to make sure the players coming through the program come out as better people. “My responsibility as head coach is to make sure that when my players graduate, they have become better men both on and off the field,” he said.
Thus far, the Eagles are 2-5 with two games left to try to improve on their three win season a year ago.